Categorized | Editorial

Autism: Conquering Stigmas

Posted on 30 March 2012 by admin

The ways in which the human body and mind are governed are sometimes difficult to understand, even with the advancement of medical science and technology. The scenario becomes even more complex, when certain conditions inexplicably affect the human nervous system. One such spectrum of conditions is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While autism is the most known of these disorders, there are other conditions that comprise the spectrum. These are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome and Childhood disintegrative disorder. Although it is known that autism is a neurological disorder affecting the brain’s development and functioning, its cause remains unknown. As a pervasive developmental disorder, autism affects a person throughout his or her lifetime. South Asia has a sizeable population of autistic individuals-although estimates are hard to come by and not always accurate, the number of individuals is anywhere between 300,000 (approximate, in Bangladesh) to 2,200,000 (approximate, in India). Notwithstanding the staggering numbers, several misconceptions and myths surround autism, especially in South Asian countries. Lack of knowledge and information often leads to stigmatizing affected individuals who are la-belled “mentally ill.” This is where the role of organizations specifically working on disseminating knowledge on this disorder assumes critical importance. South Asian Autism Awareness Centre or SAAAC is one such organization working in the GTA. With its guiding principle of “Defeat Ignorance, Embrace Difference, Conquer Stigmas” SAAAC has been engaged in the two-fold mission of helping families with autistic individuals as well as raising general awareness on ASD within the community. This week, Generation Next profiles this organization and its activities. As the Vision Statement says, “SAAAC also looks to eliminate the culture of enclosure that pervades the South Asian community when it comes to is-sues regarding ASD and disability in general.” Autistic individuals are often gifted in some form or the other. If only the broader society is made aware of their latent talents, these individuals can become significant contributors to the development of their communities. Just as they need some help with acquainting them to the practical aspects of daily living, we-those not affected by ASD-also need a shift in perspective with regard to autism.

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